As much as technology feels like a beast we’re trying to tame, we’re wanting to identify ways we can make it work for us. And ways our kids can use it for good.
One of those ways can be to create a Gratitude Album. I challenge many of the adolescents I work with to create this on their phone. I encourage younger kids to build this on an ipad of their own, or with a parent, on their device. I instruct kids and teens to put 10-12 photos of the most important people in their lives (friends and family), favorite places (home or vacation spots), and pets.
We then talk about the science behind gratitude - how gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus, a key part of the brain that regulates stress. Similarly, it triggers the “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure.
When we pull out a device and spend a minute or two looking through photos of people, places and pets, it can temporarily interrupt anxiety and worry, despair and hopelessness, negative or intrusive thoughts.
I’ve know adolescents who took this challenge to the next level and created three albums - one album for people, one for places and one for pets - for the times when the brain took a deep dive into some darker places, and they needed a bit more rope to pull themselves out of mental quicksand.
I’ve encouraged multiple kids who struggle on the first day of school, to spend part of the drive with this practice. Other kids have reported swiping through the photos on an iPad was helpful to ease the worry before, or pain while getting shots or finger pricks at the doctor’s office.
I recently talked with a 12 year old boy who reported his gratitude album reached 100 photos including pictures from his first overnight camp, first concert, first service project, 5th grade graduation and many other experiences that jumpstarted gratitude and flooded his brain with great memories.
What people, places, pets and experiences could be a part of your Gratitude Album today?